An essential part of MASA’s mission is to “empower leaders through high quality professional learning,” and we address that commitment in many ways, supporting the needs of our members at each career phase. In 2016, we had the opportunity to support our colleagues who wished to explore becoming superintendents through the first Minnesota Aspiring Superintendents’ Academy. The Academy offered a cohort professional development opportunity focusing on developing a professional practice in the superintendency, grounded in evidence-based knowledge, skills, and dispositions that contribute to successful capstone leadership.

MASA is proud to announce that we will offer our second Academy in 2018, and once again, we are grateful to the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and the National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA) for their support in making this program possible.

The rationale for offering the content is to beef up the “pipeline” of future leaders who are prepared to be successful in the superintendency.

We have evidence that the “supply and demand” of qualified superintendents is an issue of concern, and that this has been on the radar for a while. We also know just from our own anecdotal evidence (and member data) here at MASA that turnover is still an issue for a lot of districts, and that the pool of candidates for filling open superintendencies seems to be a bit smaller. The “shortage” is a ubiquitous topic—just do a Google search on “superintendent shortage” and you will find lots of states and organizations weighing in.

So, it seems that it would be in the best interest of districts to support beefing up the supply of well-prepared superintendents, but that is a general, “greater good” kind of application. Where it gets personal is when you talk about succession. School districts tend not to be terribly good at succession planning, for many reasons. Again, the cybersphere is chock full of articles and books on the topic.

Andy Hargreaves writes in his forward to Dean Fink’s book on succession planning in education, The Succession Challenge: Building and Sustaining Leadership Capacity Through Succession Management.1

“We are finally waking up to at least some of the challenges of leadership succession in education. After decades of complacency, when we acted as if our leaders would stay at their posts forever, we now realize that the Boomer generation of leaders is moving on and that about half of our existing leaders (the exact numbers depend on the study) will be retiring very soon.”

Hargreaves highlights a culture we all know well — one where mission, initiatives, strategic planning, etc. go by the wayside with unsustained leadership. And of course there is all kinds of research out there that provides evidence of the benefits of sustained leadership.

Our 2018 Academy will start in January and will consist of five 2-day on-site sessions at the MASA offices in January, March, May, September, and November. Each participant will have a coach who provides individual support and facilitates a smaller coaching group between sessions. Topic focal areas include: System Leadership, Accountability for Student Success, Communication and Political Skills, Finance & Budget, and Career Management.

Participants of our 2016 cohort gave the experience high marks for relevance and capacity-building, and most say they would recommend the experience. If you, or someone you know, would like to apply to participate in the cohort, application materials will be posted on the AASA web site at

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